Survey: About 20% of PR professionals suffered from pay cut or unpaid leave in 2020

The pandemic has impacted Hong Kong's economy severely and for those who are still working in the PR industry, almost half of them had no pay increase in 2020, according to a recent survey conducted by the Hong Kong Public Relations and Communications Professional Union (HKPRU). 

In the latest 2020 Hong Kong Public Relations & Communications Industry Salary & Benefit Survey, 25% of respondents said that they had faced a pay freeze, while almost 20% had even got pay cut or unpaid leave. Also, PR professionals suffered from a direct pay cut of up to 30%, and 11% were required to take monthly unpaid leaves of up to 14 days.

"Some members reported that a number of employers had sacked higher-paid employees after receiving subsidies through the Employment Support Scheme from the government. After that, the employers hired new employees at a lower cost to satisfy the committed headcount of paid employees criterion," said a spokesperson of HKPRU.

"The scheme failed to protect employees from unemployment, while allowing employers to benefit from the exploitation of their employees through a loophole in the policy," the spokesperson added.

The survey has also studied remuneration packages among different types of entities. Junior professionals working for the government or public organisations had the highest salaries. Meanwhile, regardless of seniority or rank groups, multinational public relations agencies offered higher wages than local agencies. Such difference was more noticeable among middle to upper management roles and more senior roles.

The average annual salary offered to practitioners with more than eight years of experience in multinational agencies could be higher than those working in the government or public institutions, meaning that multinational public relations agencies offered better job prospects.

When it comes to the median monthly salary, the survey has found that practitioners with one year of experience or less earned HK$15,000 a month. However, for industry professionals with four to five years of experience, 10 to 15 years of experience and over 16 years of experience, the median monthly salaries stood at HK$28,000, HK$48,000 and over HK$53,000 respectively.

Apart from salaries, the survey has studied the working hours among the respondents. The industry’s average weekly working hours were 47 hours, three hours more than Hong Kong’s median. However, 6% of the industry professionals’ working hours were as long as 60 hours per week. 96% of the respondents said they had received no compensation to work overtime, which pointed to the prevalence of this problem.

Although PR professionals may not be satisfied with the situation right now, HKPRU suggested that employees could ask for an increase in the number of days of paid annual leave and adjustments of their title or duties to show their willingness to tide over the economic downturn with their employers, after duly documenting plaudits from their supervisors and clients on their work performance over time. Such records could serve as convincing evidence and proof of an employee's value in the company. 

HKPRU surveyed 387 members and other industry professionals between 14 and 28 December 2020 via an online questionnaire to assess the general trends of salary, benefits and other working conditions in the industry. Among the respondents, 53% worked for local (24%) and multinational (29%) agencies, and the rest 47% worked as in-house public relations or communications personnel across different sectors, including the government or public sector (7%), NGOs, educational institutions or social enterprises (9%), and private organisations (31%).